There is a fine line between inspiration and imitation in the music world and The Black Crowes might walk that tightrope more dangerously than any contemporary band. It's easy – and sometimes necessary – to slag some band off for being derivative. Sometimes it's too easy and just as often misses the point. Take “Kept My Soul” by The Black Crowes, for instance.
If you wanted, you could spend 200 words blathering on about this being a blatant re-write of the Rolling Stones' “Ventilator Blues.” You could even throw in a few words about the Roger Daltrey-esque stutter for good measure. You could do that and you'd be absolutely right. If that's all you want to hear, your review writes itself. The Black Crowes are knocking off the Stones again, film at 11.
Among the problems with that is it only tells a part of the story. Yes, they have a Stones fascination but unlike a lot of other bands with the same fetish, the Black Crowes do this style well. Hundreds of jackass bands have ripped off “Satisfaction” and “Jumpin' Jack Flash.” Re-writing “Ventilator Blues” shows you've been paying attention. Sure, everyone says Exile On Main Street is the Stones' best record but it's not the record with the most hit singles and “Ventilator” isn't the obvious song to borrow from (although it's one of my favorites). You have to be really committed to take your cues from there.
Put another way: dock them a couple points for “borrowing” if you must, but give them credit for doing it well. “Kept My Soul” stomps hard beneath Chris Robinson's soul swagger and some wicked, symbiotic guitar work from Rich Robinson and Luther Dickinson. Dickinson stings and swings while Robinson summons blistering cool.
Flour, milk, butter, and eggs gets you halfway to any number of recipes and then, boys, you're on your own. The Black Crowes have become great at adding what comes next.